Love Your Feet!
This month we celebrate Valentines Day...time to show love and appreciation for your significant other, your kids, your parents, and...your FEET! A wise and famous saying goes, "happy wife, happy life!" The same truth applies to a small, yet oh so important, part of your body: your feet. Although they cover a comparatively smaller area, your feet have nothing to envy over other body parts in terms of complexity. Indeed, each foot boasts 26 bones, 33 joints, and over 100 muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Your feet support your weight, absorb shock, act as levers to move your legs forward and help you maintain balance on different surfaces. On a typical day, they can bear a combined force equivalent to several hundred tons! It's therefore no wonder that unhappy feet can make life miserable. Fortunately, a regular dose of tender love and care can avert this.
- Wash your feet daily, particularly the spaces between the toes. Pat dry thecompletely.
- Apply a moisturizer right after a shower, for best results. Many effective over-the-counter moisturizers exist, but extremely dry skin may require prescription strength urea-based creams.
- Apply talcum powder after moisturizing, if your feet perspire a lot. Remove excess cream and powder from toe spaces to avoid skin breakdown.
- Limit foot soaks to ten minutes. As relaxing as they are, prolonged foot soaks can dry your skin.
- Inspect your feet regularly.
- Wear well-fitting, comfortable shoes.
- Rotate shoes and socks. Fungus loves dark and moist environments and wearing the same sweat-filled socks or shoes every day would encourage their growth.
- Trim toenails straight across, but no shorter than the end of the toe. To prevent ingrown toenails, refrain from cutting your nails in corners or on the sides.
- Avoid walking barefooted to reduce your risk of injury and infection.
- Exercise regularly.
“Out of sight, out of mind." This is particularly true of feet during the winter season. Yet a periodic self-examination of your feet and ankles can help you detect existing problems early on or prevent potential ones. Check for changes in skin color, texture and temperature, as well as the presence of cracks, cuts, corns or calluses. Athlete's Foot, for instance, often manifests with peeling or scaling on the soles of your feet. Thick or discolored toenails, on the other hand, often signal a fungal infection. If you have diabetes or cardiovascular problems, you should examine your feet daily.
Because your feet are the farthest from your heart, they are choice victims of blood circulation problems in your body. These problems can manifest with swelling, skin changes, or even pain with walking, which is relieved by rest. Feel any swollen area in your ankles and feet, and ensure that it is not accompanied by such signs of infection as redness, pain and heat. Swelling can be normal, but a growth in your foot or ankle area is not. If you notice a new or unusual growth in the area, contact your doctor or podiatrist.
The enormous amount of stress that your feet endure with mere standing, walking or vigorous exercise warrants some protection. However, keep in mind that your legs and feet are usually a bit more swollen at the end of the day. Trying new shoes during a late afternoon or early evening trip to the store would therefore give you a more accurate idea of their true fit. This is all the more important that most foot pain results from ill-fitting shoes or shoes that force the feet into unnatural shapes. Pointed-toe and high-heeled shoes are common culprits. Seek a compromise between fashion and comfort, making sure that your shoe has a wide enough toe-box to allow your toes to wiggle and accommodate the ball of the foot. Ensure also that the shoe provides good support across the arch with a strong and supportive heel area. Most importantly, a shoe should fit the activity you use it for.
Exercise is good for your body...your whole body. Although overuse and trauma often cause exercise-related foot and ankle injuries, many muscles and tendons across the area suffer due to poor conditioning. Regular exercise that strengthens lower limb muscles and improves weight control can also help control the amount of stress across the foot and ankle. Lastly, physical exercise helps increase heart and lung capacity, thereby improving blood flow to your feet and ankles.
Love your feet in these basic ways, and your feet will truly love you for it!